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tv   Fault Lines  Al Jazeera  March 27, 2016 9:00pm-9:31pm EDT

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>> it's not just feelings that my mind tells me i'm being followed, no. really, i am. they know how to track you. they're everywhere. they could be in the street, they could be in our shop, they could be your friend without you
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knowing. that's why it's very hard for the interpreters to trust someone. >> he worked as an interpreter for three years. now he says the taliban is trying to kill him. it's all about first warning. >> do you sleep with them? >> yeah. we know you have been working with the u.s. official forces. you must stop helping these in if he dells. if you object and do not obey our directions and rules, you are just death will be for us according to sharia. can i meek? >> it's your room. >> taliban thought that interpreters are ears and eyes for the military. they just knew if you did this,
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you have to be killed. they don't kill you the easy way if you worked as interpreter. they will try every punishment first to hurt you. normally, i do sleep during the day, since i'm jobless, and then i would stay awake during the night. if i hear something strange, i just go up and down. i'm under pressure, honestly. >> without a special visa for afghans who worked for the u.s. government, his application by law should take nine months. he's been waiting two and a half years with no choice but to hide. most american troops now left
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afghanistan. fault line went to meet they are interpreters to find out why so many of them have been left behind. >> we were invited to the family home of one of thousand was interpreters who have tried to escape death threats by applying for a special visa to live in the u.s. >> what did you think when afghan told you he wanted to start working with the military?
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>> after several years of working with americans, his friend began receiving threats. they decided to apply for visas. >> he and i were working for 2009, up to 2012 together. we were very close friends, we were like brothers. he never called me abdullah, he was calling me brother all the time. >> while they waited, congress passed a law requiring the state department to process special visa applications within nine months. >> this is the statement after it. this is his american examination report for his visa. >> but the 14 step process would take far longer.
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>> this is his chief information approval. he has to be approved based on these four things, that he served the u.s. i don't have the faithfully that he is under a threat. he gets approved for all of it in 2012. >> so he met all the requirements. >> for a visa. >> he was waiting to just a visa on his passport. it was approved, everything was approved for him. >> after two years, he had one more hurdle to cross, a background check known as administrative processing. when the americans pulled out of the base where he worked, he had to find a new job. living off base put him at greater risk, which he described in a letter to the u.s. government. >> his last paragraph here is finally to make a long tragedy short i do not feel safe
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physically or mentally in any part of my homeland and i'm confident that the u.s. government put a step forward and help me in this process, kind rewards. >> in march, 2015, he was kidnapped, tortured and killed by the taliban. >> he received another bullet here in the chest. he received three bullets. >> an afghan national army commander recovered his body from the side of the road.
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>> can you translate this for me exactly? >> this was like a warning. they are drivers and they are taking the u.s. military fuels from one station to another station. we killed him and we will kill his other two brothers, also. >> your name's in here. >> yeah. yeah. his name was also in this letter. >> are you scared?
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>> yeah. yeah. >> months before his death, abdullah's visa was denied. he continues to work as a translator on a u.s. military base. the job offers him a measure of protection, but it's also the reason for the threats he faces. >> yeah, we were working in the same place together. i'm sure they have my picture. they have lots of translators waiting for their visas and losing their lives. >> state department officials
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declined to comment on the case and said they don't keep track of how many translators have been killed while waiting for their visa. sakidad's father buried his son here. officially, his visa is still being processed. >> this one.
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>> he never left afghanistan, did he?
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>> if he had made it to the states, a room was prepared for his arrival. the air force captain became his visa sponsor after returning from afghanistan. >> we did a lot of long runs together. there he is. that's him. >> number two, yeah. >> he's right at the front. here's us after our race. >> this was after the marathon? >> after the marathon, yeah. i still just can't believe it. i signed everything, i put the thing for a lease that he was going to be living with me. i had clothes, you name it. so far, no one has contacted me. >> they stayed in touch while he waited for his visa.
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he sent emails like this to the u.s. government. >> i am concerned for my safety. if i am left behind when the u.s. military withdraws, i have risked my life to support the u.s. military in achieving its mission that i ask that i receive strong consideration for an approved visa. i told him you got to hang in there, just a little longer, but you can only say that to somebody so much. i feel horrible about what happened, and i know that i can't change what happened, but again, it's like i was helping him come here, and i completely feel like i failed. i was hearing that from october he's going to be here within two weeks to a month and then and
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then it's march and he's gone. >> he would have had some support, but for hundreds of interpreters, a new struggle begins when they arrive in the u.s. >> these guys were in afghanistan and if they need to get to the states for safety, what do they imagine they're life will be like in the states? >> they arrive with the expectations of i'm going to have somewhere to sleep when i get here, a means of getting food until i figure out how to acquire it myself and some general instruction on how in the heck i incorporate myself into this owe silent around me and if not thrive, at least survive. >> matt zeller is a u.s. army veteran based in northern virginia. he founded no one left behind to
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help afghani interpreters settle in the united states. many are abandoned at the airport. >> no one picks them up, there's no housing, no food, no job program. you get to america and after the customs guy stamps your immigration papers and lets you through, you're on your own, good luck. you get eight months of food stamp and medicare if you know year even entitled to apply for it, but again, no one's at the airport to tell you that. that's it. >> zeller's organization has tried to fill the gaps left by underfunded refugee agencies helping hundreds of interpreters, including ahmed. he arrived in maryland after six years as a combat interpreter, a job that left him severely injured. >> it was an ambush. >> what actually hilt your hand, though? >> the a.k.47 bullet. >> where did it go through? >> it hit right here, the side where the two bones are, so it
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pretty much shattered all the bones and came out from this way. >> former translators are not just refugees, they're refugees of our own creation, but two, their veterans. they come in with all the needs that a veteran would, but they don't have any access to the v.a. that's the other thing i can't stand. he's not a veteran legally speaking, he's just an immigrant. a refugee from afghanistan who had an interesting life experience but of the 56,000 organizations that exist in the united states of america to help folks like me come home and heal from war and reintegrate, not a single one will recognize his service. >> before it was really worse. it's now like the reform one. they made it look good. >> because which his injury, ahmed had a hard time keeping to job that needed physical labor. he was packaging food at the
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time and soon fell behind on his rent. >> this is the sheriff notice of eviction they sent me when i was getting all the surgeries and couldn't afford to pay my bills. this is one, this is the other one. they send me to the court and they say you have to pay like this is something, 1900 on this and they said you have to pay 1500 of this in one week. at that time, i was -- my hand was just hanging like this in court. >> did anyone care that the reason you couldn't pay is because you had been shot serving with the u.s. military in afghanistan and that you were having an operation on your arm? >> they say no, we don't care what you did. you live in an apartment, you pay your rent, if you don't pay, the sheriff will get you out of the apartment. >> ahmed hopes his new job as a part time security guard will cover monthly expenses.
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he says if he could save enough to return to afghanistan, he would. >> make me frustrated, disappointed, like you're worth nothing, so like we were living in kabul in a war zone, we were better than this. now here, you fight all month just for your rent. once you pay your rent, you have nothing, and then it all starts again next month.
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>> back in afghanistan, we found several interpreters who did return despite the threats.
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most of them declined to talk to us on camera out of fear for their safety, but sadat agreed to tell us why he flew back from california to live in helmand province in kabul. it was too dangerous to go there, so we met him in kabul. >> does taliban know that you were interpreter. >> yeah, they know, yeah. i applied for the visa, my life to be saved. >> look at the clouds on the
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golden gate bridge, that beautiful place, the most beautiful place, the safest place, but unfortunately, i can't live there. sadat hoped to make enough money to send to his mother. he realized he would barely have enough for his own rent. >> i can't support my family. i can't run my life here. one day i will be hopeless, sleeping on the chairs of the parks, i will be sleeping beside the roads. people find it surprising that you're under such fear and threat, that you apply for a special visa to the u.s., you get it, which is not an easy process, you fly all the way to the u.s. and then decide no, and come back.
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why? >> if you die in afghanistan, that's one time you'll die one day. if you go to u.s., you will be dying every day. if you are receiving phone calls from your family hey, we need money, we have to pay the rent, we have to do this, but you cannot pay your family. this means that you are dying every day. that's better if you die in afghanistan. the helmand province is the most dangerous place in afghanistan, which i live there. i took the risk. >> that risk is still too great for many interpreters who dream of making it to the states.
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like hadat who just began his third year in hiding. >> this is how i stirs started, they give me a helmet, boots and the a.k.47 without any training. i was around 17. it's horrible, honestly. it's like someone is dying and the you tell them i don't know, but i may help you, but i don't trust you and if now to help you, i'll have to trust you first and then i can help you. >> group of afghan interpreters joined a lawsuit against the state department and department of homeland security in 2015 seeking an end to the delay in their visa applications. the case is still on going.
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>> they just came in from afghanistan, we're interviewing the interpreters for the u.s. military. they are hiding while the taliban is actively kill them. the processing, the administrative processing of these visas is taking you're never more than a few you're never more than a few minutes away from a check of longer than nine months for everyone we interviewed. this man was murdered by the taliban while waiting for his administrative visa to be processed. when someone like that is killed, does the u.s. take a responsibility when they're beyond that nine month period for leaving these guys where the threat exists? >> we're grateful for the service that these interpreters have given. we're mindful of the concerns that some of them have about getting these visas, and mindful of our obligations to them in kind. >> the only difference between
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me and people like me and sakidad is our chances. we can take precautions. we can take security measures but for how long? >> what do you say to the families for the guys who are getting murdered now while waiting over three years? >> obviously i can't speak to each case, and i, again, we're mindful of the danger they have taken on and the danger that they face now. >> they are left behind. >> i understand that. >> another one was killed yesterday in kandahar. no one considers this enough of a threat to get them out of the country. >> we have a commitment and we know we do but here at the state
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department, our commitment is to make sure we're working with members of congress to make sure the process is done as fairly and evenly as possible. >> if you could say something to the u.s. government, to someone who could actually make a difference in this process, what would you say to them? >> i would say you don't know what people are going through, and you just don't know even the law that you made. >> four weeks after our return from afghanistan, we got a call from him. his visa still hadn't come through. he told us he was looking for a new place to hide. >> last night, there was shooting. i was awake and then i heard
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shooting to the street. my neighbor, he said there was someone wearing black clothes trying to climb up on the wall, so it made me very worried. i never slept like two days. it's been horrible, just like i'm wondering so what's next. >> one hour special,
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only on al jazeera america. >> good evening and thanks for journeying us on "america tonight." i'm joie chen. as we've seen, the fingerprint of i.s.i.l. has ben easy to identify. spectacles made more visible by a media witness campaign. just the last few days, brussels, istanbul, the ivory coast, and yet i.s.i.l.'s brutal